Plasmodium is a genus of protozoa, which are unicellular eukaryotic organisms.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness that typically causes symptoms of fever, headache, and anemia. Malaria is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and it is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in these regions.
The Plasmodium parasite always has two hosts in its life cycle, including a vector, usually a mosquito, and a vertebrate host. All the Plasmodium species causing malaria in humans are transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito.
Malaria is characterized by cycles of fever and chills caused by simultaneous waves of Plasmodium merozoites escaping and infecting red blood cells.
Severe headache is a common symptom of malaria.
Plasmodium parasites infect red blood cells during the erythrocytic stage and multiply within, causing lysis of red blood cells which can lead to anemia.
Circulating infected red blood cells are identified and destroyed in the spleen, and can lead to enlargement of the spleen, also known as splenomegaly.
Blood smears are the most reliable tests for malaria and allows for visualization of parasites within red blood cells if infected.
Chloroquine is a medicine that prevents the development of Plasmodium parasites in red blood cells used for prevention and treatment of malaria. However, this form does not destroy Plasmodium vivax or ovale parasites that remain dormant in the liver. Also, there is increasing resistance to chloroquine in certain geographical regions.
For travel to areas where chloroquine resistance is relatively high, atovaquone-proguanil or mefloquine are recommended for malaria chemoprophylaxis instead.
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